Lecture: Solveig Nelson, "From Selma to Stonewall: On Civil Rights and Early Video"
Wednesday, March 18, 7:00 PM
Performing Arts Building 320
This event is open to the public.
In 1973, critic Gregory Battcock proclaimed, “video is art that will stretch the boundaries of the art world.” Solveig Nelson asks what precisely did video art promise to expand and how did it transform both American art practice and art criticism? She proposes that video in the U.S. emerged out of the nexus of three image-based practices within modernism: the televisual as it was assimilated in art works and criticism, shifting notions of performance, and strategies of mediation in nonviolent direct action.
Martin Luther King, Jr. imagined nonviolent direct action as a provocation of violence against oneself through nonviolent means with the aim of “dramatizing” injustice. Nelson argues that the modes of performance in direct action during the early 1960s, when “direct” bodily interventions were re-conceptualized as televisual events, carried over into the televisual performance of video art. Such a confluence of factors puts the art movements of the 1960s precisely in the context of civil rights, rather than in its wake.
In this lecture, works such as Ken Dewey’s mixed media installation about the Selma to Montgomery march, Selma Last Year, 1966, and the experimental workshops of Anna and Lawrence Halprin, 1966-1971, provide a point of entry for considering contact, a discourse of direct/indirect address that Nelson locates in both political activism and art works. Nonviolent direct action, the particular instantiation of politics that Nelson argues is most relevant to video’s conceptual frameworks, will be positioned as a creative act in its own right.
Solveig Nelson is an art critic and PhD candidate in Art History at the University of Chicago. Nelson’s work focuses on the history and criticism of early video art, broadly considered, and on the visual and performative strategies of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. She has written art criticism for Artforum since 2012, including longer pieces on Steve McQueen, Anna and Lawrence Halprin, and Gretchen Bender. Her M.A. thesis at The University of Chicago, 2013, considered Ken Dewey's mixed-media installation Selma Last Year, 1966. Self-designed courses taught at the University of Chicago include “History of Early Video Art” (Fall 2013) and “New Queer Cinema/Art of the Culture Wars, 1980s-90s” (Winter 2015). Previously she has worked as the fiction editor of The Baffler; collaborated with Sadie Benning on the video installation, Play Pause, 2006; and programmed literary events at the Seminary Co-op Bookstore in Hyde Park, Chicago.
Sponsored by the art department.
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